|Steam Ships Guns Money
|The Tiger's Song
This album presents music created by Vindicatrix for Ho Tzu Nyen’s One or Several Tigers, a theatricalized installation using ancient and contemporary cinematic techniques including shadow puppetry, CGI, motion capture (taken from a suspended Vindicatrix’s body and facial movements) and animatronics, exploring the histories, cosmologies and ecologies of Southeast Asia through the figure of the Malayan tiger.
The work begins as a duet between two central figures in Road Surveying Interrupted in Singapore (c. 1865), a wood engraving by Heinrich Leutemann, depicting an encounter between a British survey mission headed by George Dromgoole Coleman and a Malayan tiger in a forest in Singapore in 1835.
In the Pre-Colonial Malayan world, the tiger was a medium for ancestral spirits. It was sometimes feared as a harbinger of disease, death and destruction, and sometimes regarded as a guardian. Shamans, vagrants, and sometimes descendants of royal blood were believed to have the gift (or the curse) of turning into tigers. This symbiotic relationship between humans and tigers was broken in the 19th Century with British colonialism, a period of ecological upheaval in which Malayan tigers were massacred. But the tiger is a master of metamorphosis, and its physical death only called forth its resurrection in new forms, with which it continued haunting the British colonialists during the Pacific War and its aftermath.
One or Several Tigers condenses this complex weave of history, ecology, anthropology and mythology into an operatic duet sung by a pair of digitally created figures. On one side, there is Coleman, Irish servant of the British empire, official surveyor and Superintendent of Public Works and Convicts in Singapore – an agent of reason, order, imperialism and capitalism. On the other side, there is the Malayan tiger – an embodiment of chaos and nature unbound, and a conduit of ancestral and magical forces.
In their fateful encounter in the forested heart of Singapore in 1835, the tiger spared the humans. After all, the survey team was mostly manned by prisoners from the Indian subcontinent who had been pressed into corvée labour on behalf of the British empire. However, the tiger made sure that it destroyed the theodolite – the most expensive instrument used for the survey mission.
Vindicatrix plays the parts of both colonial surveyor and (were)tiger, singing and speaking from various points of transformation and dialogue between animal, surveyor and narrator, within a soundworld that evokes images from the “seasonless tropical Hell” of the jungle, to the Javanese courts of Mataram – clattering polyrhythms, contorted 19th Century orientalisms, nightmarish caterwauls and fragmentary vocal treatments.
The lines between human and animal, reason and magic, and history and folklore begin to blur.
Vindicatrix is a producer, singer and multi instrumentalist, working mostly in the realm of studio based electronic music but also performing live, using a variety of approaches from improvised sonic experimentation to crooning at the piano. His first two albums came out on the now defunct Mordant Music label. Much of Vindicatrix’ recent work has been in collaboration with artists working in other media, having recently released some tracks from an ongoing collaboration with New Noveta (Room Sound, purge.xxx). A series of projects working with Ho Tzu Nyen, culminated in a large-scale multimedia show, 2 or 3 Tigers with music, vocals (and motion-captured performance) by Vindicatrix at the HKW in Berlin in 2017.
Based in Singapore, Ho Tzu Nyen makes films, installations and performances that often begin as engagements with historical and theoretical texts. Recent exhibitions of his work have been held at the Hammer Museum (2022), Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (2021) and Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media YCAM. Together with Taiwanese artist Hsu Chia-wei, he curated ‘The Strangers from Beyond the Mountain and the Sea’, the 7th Asian Art Biennale, at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. From 2015 to 2016, he was a DAAD resident in Berlin. Many of his works feature collaborations with musicians such as Black To Comm, Oren Ambarchi, Bani Haykal, Ryu Hankil, Bek Hyunjin, Park Minhee, FEN, Aki Onda, Phew and Keiji Haino.
Music & Voice by Vindicatrix. Words by Ho Tzu Nyen. Mixed by Marc Richter (aka Black To Comm). Mastered by Rashad Becker.